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Movie Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

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Certificate 12A, 127 minutes

Director: Tim Burton

Stars: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is based on the novel of the same name by Ransom Riggs. In the introductory credits there are places marked on a map of the world as well as photographs of people with white eyes. There are dates with the photographs and places as well, in the first half of the 20th century. The final place seen is marked as being just off the coast of Wales, and the date is September 3rd 1943.

Then it goes to modern day Florida. Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield, Ender's Game, Hugo) is a teenager working stacking shelves in a drugstore as a part time job. He doesn't really have much of a life and it isn't exactly exciting, and he is often overlooked. Whilst working he gets a call from his grandfather, Abe (Terence Stamp). Abe sounds more than a little crazy, asking where the key to his gun cabinet is - his son, Jake's father, Franklin (Chris O'Dowd, Cuban Fury) had taken it away for safety - asking how can he fight them without weapons. Jake is driven to Abe's house, despite his grandfather saying it is too dangerous, by his supervisor, Shelly (O-Lan Jones).

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
By the time they get there, it's dark and the house has been ransacked. Just before they arrived, they nearly ran over a man with white eyes that suddenly appeared out of the fog. The screen door at the back of the house has been torn apart, as has the back fence. Jake finds a bloodied torch in the remains of the fence, and goes into the woods behind the house where he comes across the body of his grandfather. Abe has had his eyes removed, but he is not quite dead. He says that Jake needs to find the postcard, go to the island and find the loop, where everything will be explained. Jake then sees a monster, which result in him ending up in therapy, as Shelly didn't see the monster and the police rule that his grandfather was attacked by wild dogs and then died of a heart attack.

Jake did recognise the monster from stories that his grandfather used to tell, about how during World War II his grandfather had been sent from Poland to a school for special children on an island off the coast of Wales. Abe had pictures of the children there, all of which had unusual abilities, such as bees living inside them, being lighter than air or have extraordinary strength. The headmistress of the school, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green, 300: Rise of an Empire, Dark Shadows, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), was very smart, smoked a pipe and could turn into a peregrine falcon. Abe eventually left the school and went hunting monsters with tentacles, such as the one Jake saw after his grandfather's death.

Jake believed the stories when he was younger, but as he grew up, no-one else did and said the photographs must be faked. Jake's father told him that the monsters his grandfather fled in Poland, and later fought during the war, were human ones, not literal monsters, and that Abe and the other children were sent to a school to protect them, but not from fictional monsters and the children didn't have special abilities.

When Jake finds the postcard his grandfather had referred to, it was only sent two years ago, and it's from Miss Peregrine. It's marked as being from Cairnholm in Wales, and Jake manages to talk his father into taking him there, where the latter can spend his time bird watching. Jake wants to see the school his grandfather went to, and his therapist thinks it's a good idea.

On the island, Jake finally arrives at the school to discover that it's been destroyed. When he asks about it at the place where they are staying, he told that it was destroyed during the war by a German bomb - on September 3rd 1943. All the children were killed. Jake sneaks back to the house and sees several children that he actually recognises from his grandfather's pictures. Managing to knock himself out, he comes too to find himself surrounded by children and teenagers, one of whom is invisible and another is wearing long gloves for some reason. Running away, he returns to the village pub, to find that nobody recognises him, and he doesn't recognise them. He's actually travelled back in time to 1943.

All of Abe's stories were true. The children in the house do have special abilities. Emma (Ella Purnell), who Abe was attached to at the time and Jake himself is also attracted to, can float. Olive (Lauren McCrostie), the girl with the long gloves, has a touch that causes things to catch fire. Hugh Apiston (Milo Parker) has bees inside him. Millard Nullings (Cameron King) is invisible. There are others with abilities too, and Miss Peregrine can turn into a falcon. She is an Ymbryne, and more importantly she can manipulate time. She runs a house for Peculiars, children with a recessive gene who are born with special abilities, and Miss Peregrine found a perfect day then ran it over and over again - the loop that Jake's grandfather told him about. So the children are actually quite a bit older than they might look. Most of the children are welcoming, although one, Enoch (Finlay MacMillan) is jealous of Jake.

This is all a bit odd and definitely unusual, but things are much darker than they might seem. The house is under threat from the monsters, the Hollows, that Abe told stories about. The figure Jake saw in the fog is actually Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), their leader, and they want the children. Jake, in order to help his new friends, will have to grow up to a degree and start to actually believe in himself.

The film is quite dark in tone, as might be expected from a work from Tim Burton. It may be a 12A certification, but there are definitely some gruesome bits. It takes a while to get to the actual main plot of the film, but fortunately it doesn't seem to drag. There is the occasional problem with the film; when Emma refers to as the Underground in London as the "subway" it's a bit of a jarring note. Samuel L. Jackson seems to be struggling to talk around his mouth full of sharp pointy teeth (and it isn't clear why he still has them as none of the others of his group do). Barron is also supposed to be a really nasty person, and Jackson seems to be playing him a bit too much for laughs. The film is also apparently not that true to the novel - not that uncommon a problem and something that will likely annoy fans.

Other than that, this is a pretty decent film. Asa Butterfield does a convincing job of someone growing up and into himself, although it does seem a bit weird that's he's falling in love with the same person that his grandfather did. The children also don't act what is probably their true age - they have surely experienced decades of life, even if perpetually stuck in the form of a child, but don't show this. Some other problems where the plot doesn't seem to gel that well can also be discovered if thought about. Still, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a nice enough film that most should enjoy, although it may be a bit too gruesome at times for younger children.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children egdcltd 2016-10-19 3.5 0 5


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